Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Great Grape Pie Experiment

The New York State Finger Lakes region is rather well known for it's wineries, grapes, and treats related to grapes.  One of the baked items I've long thought about making is the "famous" Naples grape pie.  It sounds sort of odd, but interesting and good at the same time.

So armed with some fresh NYS concord grapes, and this recipe for "the world's greatest grape pie", I set out to see what all the fuss is about.

I didn't quite have a full 5 and a half cups of regular concord grapes, so I filled in the gap with some seedless concord grapes I had frozen (the rest of which are destined for a different purpose) and went at it.

First, I had to remove the skins from the grapes.  This is accomplished by pinching the blossom end of the grape and the pulp pretty much just pops right out, thanks to concord grapes being one of the "slip skin" varieties.  Retain the skins, however, as they're responsible for the dark purple hue of the pie filling later on.

The resulting pulp and juice is put over medium high heat until it comes to a boil.  I suggest stirring periodically to make sure the heat is distributing evenly.  Let the pulp boil for about five minutes or so, then remove from heat.

Next, pass the pulp through a sieve, or if you're fancy like me, use a food mill. My husband got me this food mill for Christmas (doesn't sound very romantic, but it was on the top of my wish list), and this was my first chance to use it.  Anyway, the food mill separates the seeds from the pulp, and the hot mashed pulp goes right through into the bowl where the grape skins were waiting.

Let the hot pulp and skins sit for about five hours.  I left mine sitting out on the counter and covered the bowl with a paper towel, but in hindsight (after my food safety bone started nagging me) I realized I probably should have put the bowl in the refrigerator for the duration.  In the end, nobody had any harm come to them, and the recipe didn't say anything about the fridge, so I guess it was okay.

After the pulp has cooled, stir in about a cup of sugar and a tablespoon of flour (the recipe calls for tapioca, but I don't care for tapioca).  You could also use cornstarch - really anything you normally would use for thickening a fruit pie filling.

Anyway, make up crust for a two-crust pie and line a large pie plate with the bottom crust.  Pour in the filling and dot with butter.  Then put on your top crust.

Now to make the "famous" grape pie, I decided to use the floating crust idea as outline in the recipe.  This meant I had to cut a circle of dough slightly smaller than the diameter of the pie plate.  I started by tracing around the bottom of my pie plate with a butter knife, but then I  thought it might be too large still and so I trimmed about an inch off all the way around.

Well, it turns out I have a very bad sense of spacial relations, because that inner circle was just way too small.  So I had to add the outside ring back again.

Not quite as pretty as it would have been if I'd trusted my initial measurements.  But I sprinkled the top with sugar and popped it in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, then lowered the heat to 350 degrees for another 20 minutes.

And there you have it.  It's not the prettiest pie I've ever made, but definitely the most interesting.

A couple notes, however, for next time (and for you if you give this a try):
  • I'm a very "textural" eater, which means if the texture of something is off, I tend not to like it as much even if the flavor is awesome.  So I will say that having the grape skins separated from the pulp made for some weird chewing consistency, as the skins of concord grapes are rather thick compared to standard seedless grapes from the grocery store.  I think next time, I'd just use seedless concord grapes from the get go, which have much thinner skins, and skip the step when I removed the skins from the pulp.
  • If you're going to use a floating crust, trust the fact that the diameter of the bottom of your pie plate is significantly smaller than the diameter of the top, and is therefore the perfect guide for cutting the floating crust.
  • Cool the pie completely, perhaps even chill the pie, before serving.  Everyone thought it tasted great but would have been even better if it had been chilled.

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